Thank you, and welcome to the City of Sudbury and Northern Ontario.
Summarizing the issues associated with education in French in Ontario in five minutes is an almost impossible task, but I am going to attempt to do the impossible. I left a copy of some material with the clerk earlier. I invite you to have a look. And just to annoy people, I'm going to begin at the end. So, I'd ask you to go to the last page of the document, where I present my conclusions and concerns with respect to French in Ontario.
Assimilation, combined with lower birth rates, is currently ravaging Ontario. Out of ten students starting out in school, three drop out before reaching the post-secondary level. Every year, of 31,000 Francophone students in Ontario, between 500 and 600 high school students decide to study in English. 55% of Franco-Ontarian families are exogamous and, of that number, only 14.5% say that they use and learn French at home, which means quite a burden for primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges.
At the present time, 33% of Francophones who have the right to be educated in French in Ontario do not exercise that right. At the present time, more than 30,000 Francophone students in Ontario are not attending Francophone facilities or schools. I believe that if, as a representative of a post-secondary college, I'm able to ensure a family's or individual's economic stability, I will at the same time ensure their cultural stability. Hence the role played by a Francophone college in Ontario.
I come back to the first page of my document now, which I will go over with you quickly. Colleges in Ontario are different from colleges in other provinces of Canada. The ones most like ours probably those in the East, in the maritime provinces. The fact is that in addition to post-secondary education, we are also responsible for vocational training, trades training, literacy, employability, career counselling, back-to-work programs and community integration of immigrants. In Ontario, we have all those mandates. The 24 colleges have a very broad mandate in Ontario, and a very important one. Indeed, that is why they are called community colleges. I will come back to the idea of “community” later.
Our institution has been around since 1995. We cover 85% of the province. I should also mention that there are approximately 500,000 Franco-Ontarians. This is a population that should not be ignored. There are campuses in Kapuskasing, Cochrane, Sudbury, and Toronto. There are 42 service centres across the province. As you can imagine, I am often behind the wheel of a car or seated in an airplane. I travel from Point Pelee as far as James Bay.
So, it is a real challenge for a post-secondary institution to survive under these conditions. Up until now, we have had some success. But I would like to briefly touch on some of our challenges.
In any given year, the college has approximately 2,000 full-time students and 9,000 part-time students. Thus far we have trained approximately 10,000 people in the trades and again, in any given year, we have between 20,000 and 22,000 Francophone clients using our points of service for anything has to do with return to employment, jobs, and so on. In that context, we have actually just signed partnership agreements and agreements aimed at coordinating our programs with university programs in New Brunswick and elsewhere. We are also present in 12 countries and are working very, very hard to secure resources outside the province.
I would just like to mention two very important points. Of the 24 colleges in Ontario, 22 are Anglophone, and of those 24 colleges, Collège Boréal has had the highest graduate satisfaction rate in Ontario as well as the highest student retention and school success rate in Ontario for the last five years. That is quite an achievement, because it's a small college servicing a minority that has been around for barely ten years.
The challenge we are facing is this: our students see the Anglophone product and they are easily assimilated. Our students see how well provided for the Anglophone colleges are that have been in place for 40 years. When they're thinking of going to school, they shop around, they have a look at what it offered and what is available elsewhere. If we cannot equip our college to the same extent as Anglophone teaching institutions, we run the risk of losing our Franco-Ontarian clientele. Competition is stiff.
Almost 80% of our immigrant clients who settle in Ontario end up abandoning the French language. We have to put processes in place to put a stop to that. Increasingly, in terms of Francophone students and families arriving from abroad, these families are in fact the ones that will ensure the survival of the French fact in Ontario. There are currently 1.56 children per family. So, it is important to be there for these clients and be able to give them what they need.
I will quickly move on to a couple of other points.
We got some news recently. I don't want to be partisan here, but I do want you to be aware of the fact that some of that news has hurt us or could potentially hurt us. I urge you to reconsider these decisions.
Let's talk about the Court Challenges Program. I work as a volunteer on the Montfort Hospital file, and laboured day and night to ensure that that hospital would survive. My family was here in 1912 when Regulation 17 made the use of French in our schools in Ontario illegal. I survived the first iteration of Francophone school boards in Ontario in 1968, as well as the school funding — finally! — debate in Ontario. After 200 or 300 years of history, it isn't always easy to continue using the French language in Ontario. We are facing challenges, and we need the federal government. You cannot simply leave this responsibility entirely in the hands of the provincial government.
I know that time is moving along, but I do want to caution you with respect to devolution. In the last little while, there have been a lot of agreements signed:
labour market development agreements, labour-management partnership programs.
These involve a devolution of federal powers to the provincial government. In some cases, that's a great idea. However, I do want to caution you: when responsibilities are transferred from the federal government to the provincial government, it is essential — and this is what I'm asking of you — to include somewhere, whether it is written in black, green or yellow, that they must abide by the Official Languages Act and the philosophy that underlies it. It is possible to abide by the strict terms of a statute without necessarily abiding by the philosophy that it espouses.
Recently the decision was made to put an end to HRDC's activities in the field. Part of those HRDC activities have been entrusted to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. Regional branches have been set up to deal with employability, counselling, education, and so on. It was decided that the position in Eastern Ontario would be bilingual, but that turned out not to be the case either in northern Ontario or in central southwestern Ontario, where there are 165,000 Francophones. That is just one small example.
I do hope this situation will be corrected. I'm sure you understand how important it is. Receiving services in French at HRDC service outlets has been quite a challenge. We have been partially successful in that regard. However, I am concerned about the transfer of these activities to the province; I'm afraid there will be slippage. I could spend quite a lot of time talking about that.